Cycling Comfort

It seems to me that we spend much of our lives seeking and creating comfort. From the very first comforting nursery we are placed in, to classrooms that make us feel happy and safe, to jobs with “security” and all the way to a comfortable retirement.

Not all of that is bad, of course, but what if we’re creating comfortable habits we unconsciously turn to in the same way some people use comfort foods?

We know it’s bad to use food as a salve for emotional pain or elation. Because mac n’ cheese doesn’t really help when you’ve been told you suck as a friend, worker, confidant or date.  And gummy bears or Ben & Jerry are not really our friends when we’re celebrating a promotion, weight loss (oh the irony..) or a personal milestone. It’s empty. Because food cannot fulfill like real relationships do.

Relationships are hard work though. Ben & Jerry are $4.99 and only require you have a close relationship with a spoon.

But whether or not you have a twisted relationship with food, I’m finding more and more we have twisted relationships with our habits that tie us to comfort.

*We shop at the same stores, in the same departments for the same type of clothes or meals or DVDs we’ve always bought.

*We go to the same synogagues, churches, community events and social gatherings that we always have.

*We read and reread the same things, year after year. Not stretching our imaginations or mental worlds, just reinforcing what’s already there.

*We cling to the same relationships whether or not they are good for us and continue to take the calls, the emails, the visits from people who do not enrich our lives, past or present.

Even in the smallest ways we cling to the comfort that we know:

*the same car insurance since we turned 16

*the same habits of paying bills and mailing a check

*the same phone plan

*the same flowers in the yard, food in the garden

*the same service providers, doctors, medicines and pharmacy we’ve always used

This is not necessarily bad – it’s good to have a preference and stabilizing to have a routine. But are you letting the comfort of the known prevent you from experiencing something amazing? Will you take the risk of the unknown and discomfort that comes with it to experience something that, quite literally, puts you in amazement?

Is it worth discomfort to be able to say “I am so glad I gave this a try!” or “I never knew it could be this simple” or “I am saving so much time and money.”

Most change requires time and it’s not my intent to advise changing your entire life for the sake of experience. But if the only thing holding you back is discomfort I have one thing to say: get over it.

You can do the work to gather the numbers from 8 or 9 insurance companies, the information they need and make some calls. Yes, it’s work. No, it’s not fun. But the payoff can be huge!

You can pull out some of the foods that have sat forgotten in your pantry for ages and try them for dinner. Maybe you never eat rice pilaf with meatloaf and it’s a little uncomfortable. Get over it.

You can donate those clothes gathering dust in the closet, the books languishing on your shelf and the movies you never watch. Sure, it’s uncomfortable – what if you want them later and don’t have them? But there’s a payoff. Besides simply relieving yourself of the mental stress of holding on to what is comfortable without regard to the cost, you conquer the fear that comes from stepping into the unknown.

Is it scary to travel alone to a place you’ve never been? Can be.

Is it intimidating to join a new knitting group, book club, church family or dog park and become the newbie? Can be.

Is it a pain to track down those addresses so you can finally send birthday cards that have languished for months? Yes (speaking from experience here).

But the reward is worth more than the discomfort. The beauty of a place unseen and what you learn along the way. The new friends who join your social circle. Recognizing a friend for who they are in your life.  Those things can’t be experiences when you choose to avoid fear and discomfort at all costs.

Recognizing the signs is difficult and will vary. My cues are subtle and like to hide behind reason. Damn Nancy Drew books of my childhood!

*When I say, “I’ll do that as soon as I have….” I know I’m avoiding. Instead I stop and say “I am putting this on my calendar with a reminder to gather what I need to make it happen.”

*When I think, “I’m not sure if I should…” I know I’m afraid. Instead I communicate my uncertainty by asking “would you like me to do….. if so, what exactly do you need and when? I will let you know if that’s feasible.”

*When I consider, “I could never…” I know I’m intimidated. Instead of the end goal (millions for retirement, maintaining a goal weight, reading all the books on my list), I make myself a smaller goal that is feasible. Baby steps. It’s a great thing because you don’t approach a baby and insist they run the mile in 7 minutes. You teach them to sit. To crawl. To hobble. To walk. To run. You try to get them to stop running. Then to run a mile. Then to run a mile in 7 minutes. Why does it seem so simple when we talk about the natural physical abilities of children but it’s so hard to implement for so many other goals?

Again, upending your entire life in order to experience change and a little discomfort is unwise. Start with something today you’ve been putting off. Are you afraid or unwilling to get uncomfortable? Get over it. The best part of this cycle that I’ve found is that I quickly get comfortable with that which was once scary and uncomfortable.  That cycle? That’s personal growth.

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Week 1 is done

Today marks the end of my first week as a contract worker and although I’ve left the “security” of a desk job I am exceedingly happy.

There are challenges of course and yet: happy.

I used to allow my circumstance to dictate my level of contentment. My co-worker says something snotty and cruel, making me doubt myself for weeks. Discontent. I complete a big project with minimal headache and get a nice ‘thank you’. Content. The company lays off a co-worker who wastes her day on Facebook instead of working. Content. Same day the company lays me off because of the economy. Discontent.

As a very strong Type A personality I did what any overachiever would: try harder. Last August I was laid off and started another job full time within 2 weeks. I like the hustle. I like having a plan and doing what I have to do to reach my goals. Even the modest ones like “not being broke.” When I want something I pursue it relentlessly.

So what’s changed? My state of the union is pretty content, happy. Am I suddenly not making any mistakes? Is everyone singing my praises without ceasing? Does money and connections and gifts just rain down upon me? Not hardly.

I’m being challenged, making mistakes, correcting them, working harder and still content.

So if it’s not tied to the circumstances of my life, why am I happy? Undiagnosed brain tumor?

I hope not!

Beyond the passing circumstances that are here today, gone tomorrow I recognize and foster the path I am on, knowing it is the right one.

I still over-analyze and fret and strive for personal and professional achievements. I don’t think that’s going to change anytime soon. But I do believe, for maybe the first time, that I am moving in the absolute right direction.

*

Relaxation has always been a funny concept to me. I get this from my Dad who can go camping, set up everything in one hour and then start splitting wood, cooking pre-planned meals, organizing events…

When I take a walk I’m looking for interesting things to photograph. Thinking about how I can share those with my communities.

When I shop I am thinking about a blog post, considering a gift, or mentally calculating.

When I’m on vacation I blog, review maps, research the area, take photos, shop for souvenirs.

When I relax at home I’m reading a book on my ever growing to be read list. I’m watching a movie or re-watching a television series on DVD. Sometimes I’m on instant messenger while watching a movie and filing…

There have been very few times in my lift I am in total relaxation without thinking of what I “should” be doing.

Knowing this about myself I am contemplating taking a day before my next birthday to go off grid. Get out of my house and out of town. Turn off my phone and leave it in the car.  Go somewhere without bringing a file to work on, a book to review, music to listen to, a list to complete.

Unsurprisingly my biggest challenge is going without a plan, a packing list, a contingency plan.

Project: Furlough – Complete!

Today is my last official Furlough day and what started as an exercise to save some money, make the most of my time and earn more to make up for lost wages was a quite successful project.

I began this project (unwillingly) in February when my full-time employer redefined “full-time” as “32 hours a week” since I was simply too efficient with my time. What was an infuriating change has probably been the best thing to happen to me this year.

This change took me from the view that things were happening “to me” to a place of accepting responsibility and control.

I started out with the most immediate ways I could make up that lost income: saving money. I changed my car insurance and trash service, then cut back on running my air conditioner and ate from home more often.

I wasn’t really feeling deprived but I can’t cut back further in a lot of areas. Besides, it’s just not that rewarding to exclaim “I worked in the dark scratching out my 47 page budget on used envelopes while sleeping on a blanket made from fuzz out of the dryer lint trap! Yay!”

No thank you.

So after my burst of savings, inspired by Ramit’s I Will Teach You to be Rich Book, I moved into a new area: earning more.

But first, I went on vacation. I talked to a lot of people before going and one of them really explained well that there is never a “perfect” time. Fewer hours may mean less income but if I had the money saved (I did) and a good Emergency Fund (I do) then I should go enjoy myself. And I did.

Throughout that time I was taking Ramit’s Earn 1K course and learni how I could turn skills into cold, hard, cash. But not be paid pennies.

I made all the mistakes, even the ones they warned me about. I’m nothing if not stubborn! But I stuck with the program and began working on the right path. Free work in a field where I can bring value. Using referrals to secure a paying client. Doing great work and getting more responsibilities. And now going full time.

Because tomorrow is my last day at the full time desk job (and I’m working from home today) it’s my last official furlough day.

**

Today I wanted to write about perspectives after my break from work on Monday when I went for a drive. I was walking around taking pictures at my favorite chapel and loving the mild weather, the huge trees, running away from the sprinklers…

In photography, teachers are fond of saying “the shot may be behind you” as a reminder to take in your surroundings. I was walking around, thinking I was good when something caught my eye. Something fluttering on the ground.

Can you see it? I barely could so I decided to change my stance. Instead of standing and looking down I got down on my knees, leaning forward on my elbows.

Still couldn’t see this elusive little blue bug.

It would have been easy to get up, walk away and squash other bugs in the process. But I knew I had the right perspective. Now I needed patience.

I’m not great at patience.

It wasn’t just sitting there, getting my jeans wet and looking like a fool. I was ready. The camera was focused and raised, I was scanning the grass and making adjustments to the camera settings.

There we go. That’s the little blue blur that I could see but couldn’t really see until I made changes.

I spent a little more of my time outside lying in the grass, relaxing, looking around me for things I might be missing. I highly recommend it.

Just Stop Stopping

Yesterday as I cleaned the house it became apparent that I am great at starting tasks. Finishing them? Not so good.

It took me 30 minutes to finish the bathroom which included scrubbing the tub. And I still haven’t finished hanging up clothes in my bedroom.

Awhile back someone gave me this quote “just stop stopping” when it comes to anything.

I really should take the advice more often.

Some techniques:

  • close extra tabs in my browser that I’m not using
  • dry and put away clean dishes before working on the dirty ones
  • put project papers away
  • finish one task from start to finish
  • deal with an email instead of reading it and thinking “I’ll respond later”

3-day work weekend * now with pictures

Happy Labor Day weekend y’all!

As per usual I’m putting the labor back in Labor Day because while the day job doesn’t begin again until Tuesday (just 2 more days there!) I do have plenty of freelance work to finish.

And my house is a disaster.

I think the mess is a result of 12-14 hour work days for the last few weeks but also I’m just tired. Half of the “worked really hard and now semi-exhausted” tired and half “I might be getting sick so I’m going to chug water and go to bed early” tired.

Luckily there are no “fires” to put out this morning so I’m going to begin tackling the chores that I let slide so hopefully, fingers crossed, by the time I’m home on Friday as a full time freelancer the house doesn’t make me cringe.

I just work better when I’m not distracted by a Kelly-made mess.

***

Update 1: Cleaned the Guest Bathroom and it only took me about 30 minutes to:

  • Scrub the tub and shower walls
  • Sweep and spot clean the floor
  • Windex the mirror
  • Scrub some stains from the countertop
  • Throw the rugs in the garage to wash

Trying to decide what to tackle next. The kitchen is a big project so maybe after lunch (when it gets even worse…)

*****

Another Update (because it’s easier than creating a new post every hour or so):

I tackled the guest room and will make another pass this week to go through the closet. I did throw a bunch of old pillows outside for the dogs to destroy. That should occupy them for… an hour.

The guest room is also my general laundry sorting area since I resist doing laundry for weeks and then do a half dozen big loads in one night. But I’m also lazy so instead of folding and putting away the clothes and towels I usually just get dressed in the guest room. *shrug* Sometimes I’m astounded by the lengths I will go to avoid a simple task. For example, when I get home from work I kick off my shoes by the kitchen and when 4 or 5 pairs pile up I throw them back in my closet. This week I put on each pair and walked them to the closet before going back for the next pair. Lazy!

Anywho, I did put away my laundry and also reset the room for my morning PT stretches and yoga. I have to be careful because the dogs like to bite at my balance ball and those things are not cheap.

I’m already in the office so that would be the next logical room but… looking around there is SO much to do in here. This is bad.

***

Update #3

I fully recognize the office needs some revamping if I’m going to be spending most of my time here. Which isn’t necessary because my laptop is pretty easy to take outside, to the library, to Starbucks, or anywhere else I decide to go.

Filing probably took me the most time because I never do it. Also, I found 2 2011 calendars! It’s not even October people… now I have a reminder that I didn’t go to Hawaii and the Humane Society pets need my support. No. More. Calendars.

I dusted the bookshelves but need to do a better job of that later. Luckily I don’t have any known allergies so a little dust doesn’t bother me, it just distracts me from working!

I could cheat and go clean the living room which is actually pretty clean! Only the kitchen and my master bed/bath rooms remain. Which is where I have been stowing all the crap I’ve found thus far.

**

Update #4

Well the afternoon got busy so I’m posting this last update on Sunday. I cleaned up the kitchen and then, predictably, made a mess preparing dinner. Typical me. But here was the “clean” version:

The living room and dining area are clean but my pictures are terrible and I’m too lazy to retake them today!

I’ve definitely accomplished my goal of being less distracted at home, now that the house is clean(er) I can work without feeling like I should be cleaning